Total War

A Guide to Unit Types; or, “So what do I do with this unit?”

Content of the article: "A Guide to Unit Types; or, “So what do I do with this unit?”"

One immediate challenge I found in playing Troy is the dizzying array of units – which, to complicate things further, are mostly infantry of various flavors. The Light / Medium / Heavy categorization I found to be only marginally useful, since there is so much diversity even within those categories, and overlap between roles. Over and over again, I found myself asking: how exactly is this particular unit intended to be used?

After playing the game some time, I've found that the best approach, for me anyway, is to separate units into roles, which only approximately correspond with weapon types and weight classes. Even this isn't perfect, since a lot of units can play more than one role, such as the units that can change weapons. But it's helped me sort out the units and figure out where they fit in my army, and compare which are better or worse. It's also helped a great deal in "reading" enemy forces to understand what I'm up against.

I've listed my own set of categories below, with likely candidates. I haven't included all unit types (there are a lot more than I initially thought, and more coming, I am sure), but I am hopeful that this will be enough to help some other players sort things out for themselves, even if others may prefer a slightly different system. Feedback is certainly welcome.


Line units have a simple purpose: hold the line. If the line gets broken, the battle can quickly turn chaotic, which is usually not in the player's favor. They need to be able to stay put and take a lot of damage – missile and melee – until the player can take control of the battle. Many line units can be very good on their own, but benefit from plenty of support from other units.

Important stats and abilities: Shields, Armor, Melee Defense, Improved Flank Defense

  • Club and Shield – Club and shield is in some ways the most "vanilla" of the units, since many don't have any special bonuses, but are a solid unit to help fill out the line.
  • Spear and Shield – Spear and shield will be the main line for many armies, since they're one of the most common unit types, and are solid on defense. They're particularly good at the ends of the line, where they can catch charging chariots etc. with their Bonus vs Large.
  • Axe and Shield – Axe and shield can be a bit more decisive of a line unit thanks to armor-piercing damage, but again, their primary purpose is to hold the line.

Shock / Reserve

Shock units are good at doing damage, but don't have the solid front-line defense that the line units do. So they're best kept in reserve behind the front line until initial contact is made; at that point, they move forward into a position where they can do damage. If they can find a flank, that may be useful, but it's not their primary role, since they're not particularly fast and may be vulnerable if they themselves get flanked. They can do a lot of damage, but need to be used with care.

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I also classify these as reserve units, because a secondary use will be to plug holes in the front line. That isn't their primary role, and they shouldn't be left tanking damage for too long, but they can hold until the line gets re-formed.

Important stats and abilities: Melee Attack, Armor Piercing, Charge, Terror

  • Two-Handed Axes – Armor Piercing and Charge bonuses make these units very good at turning the tide of a melee.
  • Two-Handed Spears – These units aren't always quite as solid as the axes, but often have slightly better defense, and can be handy for tying up chariots etc. when they try to break through your lines.
  • Giants – Giants will do very solid damage, but should be used with care to get maximum effect. Let other units tank the missile damage and front-line damage. Cyclopses are much the same.


Flanking units are infantry that can effectively sweep around the end of the enemy line and start triggering flanking bonuses. This is a dangerous position to be in, however – they will not only get into melee, but will very likely face enemy missile fire as they come around the flanks. As such, they need a relatively balanced mix of stats and abilities.

They can also tie up enemy missile units if the opportunity is there, but aren't quite quick enough to consistently run them down. And when needed, flankers can also help act as reserves and hold off enemy units coming around the flanks of the friendly line.

Important stats and abilities: Improved Flank Attack, Improved Flank Defense, Speed, Shields, Melee Attack, Melee Defense

  • Sword and Shield – A flanking unit needs a little bit of a lot of stats, but swordsmen are perfect for the role, since they're very well-rounded, and most have Improved Flanking Defense to boot.
  • Spear and Shield – Some spear units have enough speed as well as defense to make them suitable for flanking. Units with Improved Flanking Defense and the ability to switch weapons are particularly useful here. Spear and shield centaurs are particularly good at flanking attacks – just mind the enemy spears.


The skirmisher is a missile unit that moves in advance of the army. Their role is to soften up enemy units before they make contact with the friendly line. They should also be able to duel enemy missile units that get close, and look for positions where they can get flanking ranged attacks. Since they're out in front, they should be sturdy enough that they can survive some melee contact with the enemy, such as if they get caught by fast units.

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Important stats and abilities: Missile, Armor-Piercing, Speed, Shields, Armor, Stalk

  • Javelins – Javelins are ideal skirmishers because their armor-piercing missiles can do solid damage to enemy line units with even a few volleys. They should look for enemy targets without shields, but can also try to find flanking angles to bypass shields. Shielded javelins are ideal since they can duel enemy missiles, and survive volleys from line infantry that have a limited use ranged attack.
  • Harpies – Harpies are very good skirmishers, and are particularly good at finding flanks with Stalk. But they need to be careful to avoid extended duels with other missile units since they lack shields.


Missile units, as opposed to skirmishers, are too vulnerable to be out front, and need to be kept back behind the line. But they have enough range that they should be able to be effective even being further back. Since they're less effective against shields and armor, they should focus on soft targets, but even against heavy targets, they can still do damage over time since they have so much ammunition.

Important stats and abilities: Missile, Range, Ammunition

  • Slingers – Slingers are very good at doing consistent damage, particularly against lightly armored units. But other than the armored slinger units, most are very vulnerable to any kind of damage, and need to be watched carefully.
  • Archers – Archers lack some of the range of slingers, but are a bit more resilient against enemy missile and melee attacks than most slinger units, so don't need to be minded as closely. (I think they may also have higher accuracy and a higher arc of fire than slingers, so more useful for hitting units behind enemy lines or behind walls, but I'm not sure on that.)

Charge / Pursuit

Charge and pursuit units are the fastest of the units, and are very good at quickly doing damage and then moving on. They are not good at staying in melee combat against any but the weakest of units, and so need to be carefully managed. They can trigger flanking bonuses in big melees, but shouldn't stay in melee range for too long, since they can easily get tied up and destroyed. So while they can help soften up the enemy line by charging it from behind, they're best used running down enemy missile units, and keeping broken enemy units from rallying.

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Important stats and abilities: Speed, Charge, Missile

  • Chariots – While chariots are very good at getting big charges in, they can also get into trouble very quickly if they run into big masses of spears. They may be better off using missile abilities against dangerous opponents like spears, but melee charges against weak opponents like missile units. They tend to do more damage against fleeing enemy units in melee.
  • Javelin Centaurs – Centaurs can put out more missile fire than chariots, and so can act as skirmishers if needed – they just need to be careful about enemy missile units that can out-duel them. They should be even more cautious about charging into enemy spears, which can do a lot of damage to them in a hurry, but can still do a very good job of running down missile troops and fleeing enemies.

Army Composition

This post is long enough, so I won't try to tackle army composition – and it will vary a great deal depending on what units are available, what units you're facing, which faction you're playing, etc. But I've found that as I better understand the role that units play, it's easier to figure out which units I need for which situation.

I hope this helps!


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